Having developed a relationship with the noted opera librettist Pietro Metastasio, Italian poet and librettist Ranieri de Calzabigi took on the challenge of writing opera libretti. Like every great artist, he looked at the work of his predecessor with a critical eye, and chose to move away from the traditions that had been recently established.
This movement towards a reformation of the early operatic form was also being felt in other parts of the musical world, in particular by composer Christoph Williabald Gluck. When Gluck and Calzabigi met in Vienna, in 1761, a partnership was formed. They moved away from the florid virtuoso style that had been central in Italian operas of the late baroque period, and began the move towards simplicity. They prized the representation of human emotion over the showcasing of vocal skills, a change which would eventually lead to the classical operas of Mozart, and can even be identified in the later verismo works of Puccini.
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